Some academic programs require co-op and others offer it as an option. In all cases, if you are going to co-op during the academic year, be sure that the Student Financial Aid Office is made aware of your plans in order to maximize your aid.
Co-op students will be most affected by limited summer aid options because they enroll year-round in either classes or co-op most of their college years. At the same time, any student planning to attend fall-spring-summer will need to review summer options.
Even though co-op terms carry lower tuition costs and your co-op rotation will determine your term costs, eligible funds for students will split evenly between fall and spring. Summer will be considered separately.
If you plan to attend summer and want to manage your aid accordingly, you should speak with a representative of Enrollment Services on your campus to best understand how aid will process and options you may have for reserving some aid for summer.
The University of Cincinnati has a rich history in cooperative education. In fact, we invented it here. Students have a unique opportunity to alternate classes and work in order to gain real-world experience and put into practice classroom theories.
Additionally, many co-op students find they can reduce reliance on student loans through their earnings and a planful approach to their co-op placement.
Co-op advising, employment and evaluation is managed through Experience Based Learning's Career Education unit.
Normally, a student's financial aid package is built around a 9-month academic year with 2 terms of tuition. However, as a co-op student, you are going to be a student year-round. Therefore, alerting Student Financial Aid that you are on co-op adjusts your budget to 12 months (either 2 terms of tuition or 2 terms of co-op fees with 1 term of the other based on your specific rotation). This change can also adjust your eligibility in some aid programs.
While some aid programs will not adjust based on your co-op rotation, other aid funds will only be available to you during in-class terms. Informing Student Financial Aid of your co-op/class schedule allows for maximization of your aid and fewer suprises when aid is retroactively adjusted as required
- Scholarships: Scholarships are available to you for full-time, in-class terms. Generally, you will still only receive half of your annual scholarship during an in-class semester. Awarding a semester amount allows some renewable scholarships to continue through a four-year equivalency, when renewable, even though your academic career will take a bit longer. You may also need to contact individual scholarship coordinators to alert them to your planned co-op rotation and any changes that occur.
- Grants: The Federal Pell Grant will post for fall-spring. You are eligible to receive your semester allotment even when on co-op during the primary academic terms. You will then be reviewed for summer Pell eligibility. Recognize that getting Pell all 3 terms can use up your lifetime Pell limit prior to graduation. State grant programs such as OCOG are available in the same way as scholarships described above. Other grant programs including Federal SEOG will be split in half (and available to you in part or in whole depending on co-op/class rotations for the year) but can only be made available to you during in-class semesters up to a half-annual amount.
- Work-Study: Students are eligible to continue work-study employment during co-op semesters if they wish. Also, some co-op jobs are work-study positions with increased levels of responsibilities related to the student's major.
- Loans: Federal Subsidized, Unsubsidized and PLUS Loans are processed over fall-spring. Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan annual loan amounts are divided into equal halfs (even though your costs per term are not equal) when a student is enrolled over summer as well as fall and spring. Some students, based on mid-year class progression to sophomore or junior status, could seek a loan increase at the time of the advanced grade level. Other students may want to accept smaller loan amounts for the academic year so as to reserve some eligibility for summer. Alternative educational loans are processed based on the request of the student and encouraged over all terms of enrollment for any given academic year.
Because some aid will be made available to you when on co-op, your full eligibility in that aid program may exhaust prior to summer term. Students taking summer classes will need to plan accordingly to meet their anticipated higher summer bill.
Financial Planning Key
Ultimately, some financial aid is divided to post fall-spring, other aid divides over all three terms of enrollment, and still other aid posts only when a student is in classes. In all cases, like with co-op earnings, it is the student's responsibility to manage any aid overages and refund checks on any given semester to account for financial needs throughout the full academic year attendance.
Report your co-op plans when you accept your aid online and to Enrollment Services when plans change in order to maximize the aid available to you. Understanding your aid distribution during academic years where you co-op one or more terms will help you plan to meet financial demands with aid and earnings throughout that year.
Closely Monitor Loan Borrowing
Remember that co-op earnings are also a way to reduce reliance on loans and pay for upcoming in-class terms when possible. Co-op students should take a look at their loan borrowing relative to maximum loan eligibility, co-op rotations, and overall financial planning.
Goal 1 is to limit loan indebtednesss as you begin your career post-college. Graduating with the lowest possible loan debt make for easier budgeting and more disposable income after graduation.
As you do with your co-op planning, plan out your college career borrowing, not just a single year. For example, if you borrow the maximum allowed for a dependent student each of your 5 years (assuming quick class progression), that adds up to $27,000 in 4 years. With a $31,000 aggregate limit, that will leave only $4,000 (less than your freshman year borrowing eligibility) for your final year that may have the higher number of in-class terms with tuition costs.
You are always wise to live frugally. While loans can assist you in selecting unique co-op placements, be careful if you are living on loan debt in the same way you are using co-op earnings without an eye on your future in-class costs within an academic year and in future years. Debt and earnings are not equal funding.
Additionally, students who only plan to attend one in-class semester during an academic year should consider reducing their loan borrowing the most since tuition costs will be lowest that year, and they will have more earnings. This adjustment can help reduce overall borrowing and ensure you do not exhaust your aggregate borrowing limit prior to graduation.